If you ask 100 people in the post-Soviet space about what they associate the word “NATO” with, 99, they will probably be called “military machine”, “bombing of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, etc.”, something closed, powerful, threatening with an unlimited budget ...
Perhaps someone will also say a “fist against Islam” or something like that.
Is it so? Should we believe another “machine” that is informational and forms similar stereotypes? Have you wondered why in those 26 countries (I must admit that most of them are quite decent), which are members of NATO, do people tolerate this membership at all? What is the moral right of the member countries of this NATO itself to watch how we vote in elections, do we respect human rights? And why does Russia and the Central Asian countries are partners of this military bloc? Why is NATO at all, if there is no USSR?
As you know, the regular NATO summit took place recently in Riga, where, among other things, the question of the possible entry of Ukraine and Georgia into this organization was discussed.
In connection with this, at least the following questions arise: Does the entry into NATO of the two countries “threaten”? What will it give us?
Representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization attempted to answer all these and other questions during a tour of Central Asian journalists in Brussels to the headquarters of the alliance. It must be admitted that the press tour was a kind of revelation, which debunked a number of myths and stereotypes.
So, for example, as it turned out, NATO does not have such a big budget - about $ 2 billion, for which it is unrealistic to maintain a decent army, given that an aircraft carrier will cost at least half of this amount along with its maintenance.
Actually, NATO has practically no army. Almost all operations are funded and provided voluntarily by member countries. For example, Spain undertook to organize the rescue of the population in Pakistan during an earthquake. NATO only provides coordination for such operations, so to speak, headquarters coverage. And in Afghanistan, where the main task of the Alliance is to create infrastructure - schools, roads, kindergartens, etc., there are troops from 37 countries (in NATO, as we know, 26). Of the nearly 33 thousand foreign military in Afghanistan, less than 12 thousand are American, 6 thousand are British. And all of them are paid not by NATO, but by the countries themselves. That is, they are all located in Afghanistan, Kosovo and others under, so to speak, only the NATO brand. And this should guarantee civilization, openness and control of the actions of the military.
As for openness, the NATO information policy simply shocked journalists from Central Asia. The elementary exotic for media workers of our countries who were not spoiled by cultural attitudes on the part of official bodies was the news: all members of the NATO Press Center are available 24 hours a day. This is to ensure that journalists from all over the world are provided with information. Employees of the press center should not refuse the media to provide information. Actually, you can make a presentation about this by seeing that there are audio files on the www.nato.int website - recordings of all briefings and press conferences in this organization, which is very convenient for the media. It is not surprising that almost 900 journalists are accredited with this organization, and “communication with the public,” according to the NATO leadership, is an essential component in the work of this organization.
No one is immune from mistakes. Therefore, NATO decided - you can not be afraid to admit their mistakes. If it turns out that the wrong information was given, or the actions of NATO representatives were somewhere illegal, it is better to admit it and be the first to tell about it.
Many journalists are also familiar with the tedious “execution” of inspections when visiting authorities in their countries — metal detectors, x-rays, inspections. Strangely enough, to go to the headquarters of NATO you have to go through a lot less procedures than to go to the building of the president of any of our countries.
Another revelation. Joining the North Atlantic Alliance, it turns out, is only possible when at least 60% of the country's population is in favor. The criteria for joining this organization are almost the same as in the EU - human rights (although it is not clear how Turkey turned out to be there), economics, politics, as well as military standards.
Since 1959, NATO has given grants to scientists, NGOs, environmentalists, etc. In 2005 alone, 290 of them were issued worldwide. Almost all priority topics are exclusively peaceful - development of communication, access to information, detection of toxins.
NATO employees with a smile admit that their employer’s image is far from ideal, but they don’t even try to put pressure on the media and engage in propaganda. Their motto is: the world is changing, and NATO must change with it. Yesterday's enemy in the face of the Soviet empire is no longer an enemy for the Alliance, but a partner.
The most quickly and efficiently in Central Asia, according to NATO members, is developing relations with Kazakhstan, with which this organization has a lot of projects - from satellite Internet for scientists to training rescuers. NATO’s relations with Uzbekistan became complicated after Andijan (the number of joint projects decreased from 120 to 12). Turkmenistan is closed and almost does not respond to initiatives. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are stable partners with a large base for cooperation. It is not known what the friendship of our countries with the “war machine of the USA and the West” will result in. NATO officials themselves are sure that it is possible to develop partnerships even with the most odious regimes - this is better than creating myths and wars. The lesson from the USSR, which so frightened the Western world, but fell apart before our eyes in a few years - the North Atlantic bloc taught a lot. But while the accession to NATO to the countries of Central Asia is “not shining,” even with a strong desire, it is too difficult to meet the requirements. For the NATO members themselves, expanding their organization is far from being so desirable. New members - new problems and costs, complexity of procedures, efforts to raise the standards of newcomers.
It is also interesting that, despite the idea that the United States dominates NATO, the richest countries in the world have exactly the same voice as the smallest member of NATO, Iceland.
Authoritarian “advanced” journalists from our countries were surprised to learn that NATO’s management and decision-making structure is as collegial as possible and distant from the omnipotence of the military. There are always civilians above them - the same general secretary is obliged to be non-military.
And the last. NATO has been created more in front of unpredictable and aggressive force. Such a force was the Soviet Union. Now - terrorism and other threats. Fear of this in developed countries is no less than our post-Soviet fear of the myth of NATO created by Russian-Soviet propaganda.